Feeling off-balance is troubling. The initial instinct to stretch out your arms and find some stabilizing structure of permanence is inevitable. Oftentimes, on the trails, that which we need to keep us upright is just out of reach. We fall. We bleed. We break. We mend… hopefully.

This year I’ve been entirely off-balance. My mental stability has been in question and I’ve been in a constant search to find that object of permanence to right the ship. Most times I fell. I would slip into depression and paranoia, unable to draw the distinct line between reality and the figments of my imagination that torment what should be peaceful moments. At times, it was utterly terrifying. At times, I imagined finding peace in the permanence of non-existence.

In all this time I found little to no ability to run. The desire to apply myself towards a personal goal was unthinkable as it took all my effort to see my way through to a better path of thinking. Instead of searching for my personal goals in running, I shifted my track and focused on our runners who showed up and gave their all at our races. I poured myself into their dreams in hopes that in some small way I could help them reach a goal that I knew was unattainable for myself.

It worked.

During a time of personal instability, I found a solid structure to lean on for my personal goals in running. Every one of you who used our events to strive for more gave me confidence that even if I was never able to pursue my own goals in reaching finish lines, I could still be a part of the community and help all of you have the chance. This measure of comfort gave me the time I needed to mend and right myself.

Community is stability. It’s the centering force that can bring outliers in and give them a home amongst the crowd. And no matter how far out my mind tried to push me, the gravity-bending love that this community has to offer pulled me back in and sheltered my dreams as I fought to realize them again.

I’m running again now. I’m more stable than I have been in the last two years. It’s taken a lot of work, a lot of patience, and a lot of love. My family has stood by me to give me comfort, love, and attention. You, as my trail family, have shown me that the world I fell into is still alive and well, waiting for me to return to toe the start line whenever my body is ready.

As we move out of one year and into the next, I still look forward to watching as many runners as possible cross our finish lines. I also look forward to notching a few more ultra finishes on my belt as I head back down toward Buckle Alley. My mind is ready and now my body needs to follow. I thought of the possibility of never returning to a start line to run, but I can’t find the balance in my life with that outcome. Standing upright is safe, and an improvement over my previous state. But a motionless life is an uninspired one. I need to pursue the days that follow this one. I want to chase them down and cross the finish line smiling. I’m sure I’ll stumble. I’m sure my stability will be tested. But I’m also sure that with a community so well balanced by compassion and determination, I’ll never have to reach very far to right myself and get moving again.

Of Misfits and Monsters

In a common understanding, my brain doesn’t function properly. I see and hear things that don’t exist in the outside world. My mind creates and populates worlds fit only for imagination, and I can spend hours weaving through their streets and forests to try and understand the occupants of the fabricated existence. I don’t know how to not be this way.

I was terrified of telling people how daily life differed for me. So much of what I’ve studied from the people I’ve known and interacted with has allowed me to act normally in social settings. But the person I portray is only a part of me; a part I can access and a role I can play in a passable manner when needed. It’s not my definitive personality, though.

Who I am is unknown to almost everyone. Even those closest to me have been spared the tailspins into delusions that transport me into different realities I then turn into stories or let play out like movies in my mind. I’d love to say they were all enjoyable, but that would be a lie. As often as they are a delight to indulge in, they can also be a terrifying delve into the darker parts of my subconscious.

Resting beneath the surface is a near-constant fear that feeds these darker stories that linger in my mind like the air around us. I fear being seen beyond what I show everyone. I fear what people will think if they see me having an episode or am so engaged with a fantasy that it’s hard for me to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s only in my mind. I fear everyone and what they might do to me.

When you’re a kid and the only people you see that may represent how you feel on TV are being locked away in mental asylums or being treated as the freak to be feared, you build a wall around the version of you that could spark the same reactions from even your own family. I’ve been afraid of the world for as long as I can remember. And I’m afraid the world is terrified of me as well.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never be able to change who I am and how my brain operates. Medication helps keep the darker aspects of my condition at bay for the most part, but I still seem to exist in the grasp of a separate state of mind. Feeling normal is a passing sensation that I get from time to time, but even then, I know that I don’t belong in that world.

On Sunday, I ran my first mountain trail race in almost two years. It only took a few miles for the pack to thin out and I found myself alone. Adrift in the woods, my mind began to create a separate reality. I placed a small branch of pine needles in my hat to appease the forest and the creatures that appeared in my mind. The traumerites, mystic beings that exist within the winds and spark the worst emotions that inhabit your thoughts. The logdunes, minuscule creatures that burrow into downed trees during the daylight to hide, emerging from the shadows as the sun sets to let their luminescent tails guide the paths of the beasts that wander the mountains at night. The cone-ivores, an aggressive species of pinecones that dive bomb from the canopy above in an attempt to nibble on your flesh.

The list of creatures I documented from my imagination reached almost twenty. Each of them seemed to have some semblance of reality in my mind. None of them truly exist in any way. I know they don’t exist. But when I’m alone on the trails, I also know they’re there, scurrying about around me as if I were transported to a different realm and am now just a minor part of a greater fantasy.

Sometimes I wish I could bring people into these worlds. It’s why I write. If any good can come from my condition, I hope it’s the chance to show everyone the beauty that can come from a broken mind.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to deal with the pain that comes with the beauty, though. It crumbles me at night as I lay awake wondering what the next day will bring forth from my mind. I had an idea of what progress would look like as I’ve sought help to maintain stability. But I’m not sure anymore. I fear being overprescribed with medications that inhibit my ability to see other worlds. I fear being underprescribed and being forced to reckon with the darkness on my own. I try to live in the moments in between.

Above all the fears is a singular goal: stay alive.

To achieve this goal I have to ration my energy in the best possible ways. To keep my worlds alive, I’ll use every word I write to document their existence and try to share it with the world should I be given the chance. Should the chance never come, at least I’ll know I’ve tried.

I’ll still be wandering around the running world, racing and directing, spying on new creatures, and documenting their habits. And should you ever want to see what I see, feel free to ask. I might not be able to show them to you, but I can do my best to make them vivid in your imagination.

Green Peace

I fell in love with Cane Creek Park the first time I ran there in late 2018. In comparison to several other parks, it’s relatively isolated and quiet. There have been numerous adventures in the woods there that I haven’t seen a single person save for the office attendant greeting me at the entrance.

I’m fond of the quiet. With no one else around, I’m allowed to play on the trails in the manner I prefer – running like a kid and jumping off of small rocks while pretending I’m crossing a great and cavernous opening in the ground. The isolation also allows me to spend time getting to know the trails better. I can find shortcuts, old and overgrown paths, or be allowed the freedom to make my own path through the woods. Sometimes it’s fun to run where you think a new trail could be or should be, so long as you don’t get lost.

Of all the wandering and scampering I’ve done (if what you do can’t be qualified as scampering, you should change that), I’m at my best on the green trail on the backside of the park.

You have to intend to get to this trail. From the visitor center, it’s a three-mile trek along the purple trail until you reach the blue connector which is easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. From there, you still need to keep following a gravel path even though your mind will tell you that you’re off the trail and need to turn back.

The trail itself is often empty, even on the busiest of days in the park. Most day hikers don’t want to go that far, leaving it for the taking by those willing to put in that little extra effort.

There’s nothing spectacular about it on the map. It looks like one of several locations that merely skirt the lake. What the map keeps a tight lip on, however, is how sanctifying running this section alone can be. It moves fast, but it will make you want to go slow.

Deep in the woods, the expired foliage lay thick on the ground, and here is where I find its best quality. The densely packed floor of the woods welcomes you to bury past disappointments. My Georgia Death Race DNF, my Yeti 100 DNF, my knee injury, and now my last eight months of waiting impatiently for my medications to settle enough for me to run, they all lay out underneath the foliage. The pain and the frustration, the sadness and the despair, all accepted and allowed to be removed and taken whole by the woods.

This is why I love to visit the green trail. So much of me rests on this 1.5 mile section of single and double track trail that I no longer want to carry with me when I run. It’s a perfect resting place so I can move on and find hope in the future races it also helps me train for.

If you don’t have a trail like this where you can bury your past and let it rest in peace outside of your mind, I welcome you to use this one.

To Get There:

Cane Creek Park – 5213 Harkey Road, Waxhaw NC 28173

Park at the Visitor Center and follow the gravel path to the purple trail. Take it across the dam, but make sure you stop and look out across the lake. No matter the weather this is always worth capturing for your memories. After the dam, hang a left and follow the short gravel path until the trail opens up in the woods. It’s another 2 miles until you reach the blue connector trail. Take the left and cross over the small creek, following the path until you reach the gravel road. Hang a left on the road and just keep running. It’s less than .25 miles to get to the green trail so don’t let your mind play tricks on you. Once you see the green trailhead sign pointing right, I suggest you go left and run the loop clockwise. I can’t explain to you why I think this way is better, but to me it just is. Take your time and enjoy the view. And feel free to bury whatever past disappointments you’ve been carrying with you unnecessarily.

Commit To The Script

In 1995 a movie of epically good/bad proportions was released. Mortal Kombat had become a sensation in the gaming world just a few years before, instantly capturing the hearts of young fans while repulsing their parents. If you were like me, you fell in love with the grotesque nature of the game in its twisted and opposite take on violence in comparison to platform games like Super Mario Bros.

With such a huge following in a short amount of time, the game garnered the attention of the film industry desperate to make a few dollars off of its success. And on an $18 million budget, they raked in over $120 million worldwide in box office sales. This movie made bank.

And no, it wasn’t a good script with great acting. It was a bad script with cheesy acting that took multiple liberties with a source material that itself made little sense. So why did it do so well, and why am I even referencing it? Because it knew what it was and it went all in. The actors, the director, the writers, everyone involved just said “Fuck it” and committed. How else could you pull off a scene where one of your leading actors drops into a split and punches a ten-foot-tall, four-armed monster in the crotch?

This all-in commitment is necessary to make a bad movie feel good, and a trail run worth running.

If you were to take the trail description for a race, map out your emotions per mile from the cloud scraping highs and inconceivable lows, and place every word from your inner consciousness into a script, it would read like a cheesy movie. And the only way it works, the only way you get to the finish line, is if you commit.

Half-hearted thinking will break down your spirit when the newness of a race wears off and the pain begins. Build a character for yourself to play. Deify the finish line and place the trail in your way as a monster to conquer. Commit to yourself and your script.

If ever you need encouragement before a race, do what I do. Find your dusty copy of the greatest bad movie of your childhood (rent it if you somehow don’t own it), push play, and watch what crazy commitment to a blatantly bad idea looks like. And when you get to the finish and the credits begin to roll on your race, you’ll know within your spirit that you are the chosen one. You will face your destiny and cross that finish line. Or, DNF like Sub Zero did while giving it your all (personal heroes don’t always win).

 Either way, the memories will at least be worth rewatching over and over for years to come, cheesiness and all.  

The Rock: A Love Story in 14 Miles

When we first planned this course, it was designed to highlight the park and to give runners a chance to see how beautiful it was if they had never been there before. Being on Valentine’s Day weekend, we also centered much of the swag around that notion of love as well. In rescheduling this race after the ice storm canceled our original plans, we had a chance to reevaluate our course and found a way to tell a different love story; not one of falling in love with the park, but of the love/hate relationship runners share with the trails.

This course is not designed to hurt you, but to make you feel every emotion a runner will go through. There will be breathtaking highs and fits of joy, countered by agonizing moments of groaning displeasure. The climbs are difficult, the descents are technical, the views are amazing, and the experience is your journey through the emotional mind you’re stuck with on a long and arduous run.

Mile 0.0 – 1.75

The Start line is always a place of mixed emotions, and this one will be no different. We kept our original permit of only 50 runners for this reschedule so there will be an intimate and exclusive vibe to this race. Perfect for making new trail friends, but also worrisome for not being able to drift into a crowd if your nerves begin to play havoc with your confidence.

When you begin, the initial adrenaline rush will be your first challenge. In less than a .25 mile you’ll begin the first major climb of the course up the Wolf’s Rock Trail. If you rush this climb, you will burn the energy needed later in the race. Take it slow, get to know the technicality the mountain is presenting, and understand what you’ll be up against for the next few hours.

When you crest this climb at just under a mile, make sure you find your breath before you begin to run as you head left on the ridgeline toward your first sightseeing opportunity. Glance into the blossoming woods, check out the distant horizon through the trees, or just watch your feet as you make your way into the rock gardens that line this course. Then, enjoy your run. You’ll have close to a mile from the moment you crest the first climb to find your footing moving at a faster pace as you pass along this rolling section.

**Wolf’s Rock** – The first major sightseeing opportunity will be just to the right of the course. While beautiful, these rocky outcroppings can be deadly and are not to be messed with so the course does not go out onto any of them. But please, take a moment to briefly step of the course and create a memory. These views are gorgeous and are the reason we do crazy things like run 14 miles in mountainous terrain.

Mile 1.75-4.5

 With the renewed vigor of young love after taking the time to peak out over Wolf’s Rock and enjoying the brief respite of flats and a downhill section, this course will present its next challenge – Hanging Rock.

From the moment you turn right off of the Wolf’s Rock trail onto Hanging Rock, you begin to feel a change in the course’s demeanor. What was a single track, wooded area, becomes a gravel road heading up. After the first initial climb levels out, it offers your first view of the peak of Hanging Rock and you’ll begin to wonder, “Am I going all the way up there?”. Yes. Yes, you are. And you’ll be getting up there very steeply and in under a mile.

Once the gravel road ends at the base of Hanging Rock, the climb begins. In total, it’s barely .3 miles from the base of the climb to the peak, but you will have to earn every step. Take your time. Breathe. You will reach the peak.

**Hanging Rock** – The second major sightseeing opportunity gives the park its name. Hanging Rock is worthy of this honor as the vast mountainous views are instantly iconic in NC backcountry trail life. The course turns around just before the outcropping, but again, feel free to walk out and catch your breath in one of the most grandiose displays of nature you’ll see in the area.

The descent from Hanging Rock is not to be taken lightly. As steep as it was to summit this peak, it is just as steep to descend back to the gravel road. POWER HIKING IS ADVISED TO ALL RUNNERS WITHOUT HIGH LEVELS OF TECHNICAL DOWNHILL EXPERIENCE!! Nature does not care if you get hurt, and this course will not care if you fall and break anything. Take care of yourself when you are in a position that we cannot take care of you.

After you’ve descended from Hanging Rock, prepare to enjoy the next 1.5 miles of relatively easy going. Any of you familiar with running at Crowders Mountain will have flashbacks of running down the Tower trail as you make your way toward the Lake trail section. If you are wanting to gain a little time or just let out some energy, this will be your first prime section of the course. After enjoying the rolling trail sweeping directly to the side of the lake, you’ll make a right turn onto Moore’s Wall trail, and will find your first aid station. It will be another 5 miles before the next aid station. Take advantage and refill your water bottles and bladders!

**Lake Dam** – The third major sightseeing opportunity will be the dam constructed for the lake. You will pass right by the base of this seemingly innocuous but mesmerizing feature that will make you want to stop and catch your breath. If your heart is racing, or you feel like the course is getting the better of you early on, take a moment here. Remember why we run in the woods.

Mile 4.5-7

The climb up Moore’s wall is grueling. At 1.25 mile long, there are only a few brief respites where you are not going up. It will present you a few moments in which you will begin to think it’s easy and I’m exaggerating. Then it will quickly remind you of this very sentence in which I’m telling you to take your time and breathe through it. Unless you are well trained in power hiking up long climbs, expect to lose some time here.

As the third major climb, this will also begin to let in the doubt and frustration that can so often plague our minds during a run – the love/hate relationship will begin to shine here. The “Why am I doing this?” line of questioning we slam ourselves with will be hard to drone out as you slowly make this climb, but once you crest and hit the ridgeline, you’ll have your answers.

At roughly 5.8 miles in, you’ll make a left onto the ridgeline of Moore’s Wall trail. A nice rocky outcropping will be just to your left and will give you a view of the Wolf’s Rock Ridgeline you were at just a few miles before. Utilize this view to reenergize you and wash out those negative thoughts.

Now, this ridgeline is runnable, but I encourage a strong power hike. You’ve just finished your third of four major climbs, and this is a tight and technical single track with plenty of toe crunchers looking to take you down. Help your body out by hiking out this section until you reach the descent. You may lose a minute or two here, but it will be worth it on the back-end when you’re able to run the last section of the race to make the time back up.

The descent from Moore’s Wall begins at mile 6.5. It is technical but gradually becomes more runnable after the first .25 mile. Your body will need to keep gravity from gaining control of your speed here, so monitor how fast you’re going. You can run this, but only if you can control yourself.

Mile 7-12

The halfway point can feel great, and after the grueling experience of tackling those three major climbs, this soft pack gradual uphill will be reinvigorating. Tory’s Den Trail section is the primary out and back on this course to highlight one of the trails less used at the park. This mainly soft pack and pine strewn trail will be an easy-going section for the first few miles as you wade your way through the lightly populated and densely packed forest.

Take advantage of this section as there is a slight climb, but then a near-continuous descent afterward. At mile 9.25, you’ll reach your second aid station at the trailhead for Tory’s Falls. Enjoy a break and conversation now, or when you return in .4 miles as you will briefly carry on down the trail to the waterfall before returning.

**Tory’s Waterfall** – Fourth major sightseeing opportunity. The trail will turn around again right before the rocky outcropping that lets you breathe in the waterfall and take in the crushing sound of water breaking against the rocks below. My suggestion, grab a snack from the aid station and take it the .2 miles down to the waterfall and enjoy it there before returning. It’s a simple beauty, but it’ll be worth remembering.

After leaving the aid station on your way back, you’re going to remember the gradual 1.5 mile downhill section that got you to where you were, and how you now have to hike up it. It’s ok. This is the last major climb of the course and, in my opinion, the easiest. Much of it is gradual and over easy terrain. And if you need a pick-me-up, at around 10.3 miles in, you’ll see an opening to your left where Moore’s wall is looking ominously down on your position. You conquered that wall already, and Hanging Rock, and Wolf’s Rock. Remember this, and you’ll conquer the last .8 miles of the climb until the soft pack and pine-strewn trail return to guide you back downhill.

Mile 12-14

You’ve all but done it. You’ve made it back to the base of Moore’s Wall Loop Trail and can now enjoy the warm embrace of the green tunnel of Magnolia trees and the spring water running to the side of the trail that feeds them. This section is runnable and beautiful. You’ll pass by your friends at the aid station from mile 4.5 at just about mile 13 for one last pick me up if needed.

Don’t close your eyes to this section of the course, though. It may not have the peaks you conquered before, but it will show you a simple beauty that will make you want to take off your shoes and dip your toes into the cool water. And when you’re done enjoying the Magnolias, you will find yourself coming back out around the lake, the finish line just a short way away.

Cardboard Castles

I was fortunate growing up. Our little suburb was tucked out in rural nowhere, and the developer left a large chunk of wooded area in the middle to match the hundreds of acres of undeveloped woods between us and the closest interstate (I-85 represent!). With this setup, there was little reason to use the roads other than as a quick shortcut to the next trail the kids of the area made to get to a friends’ house. In these woods, forts were built, unofficial races were run, wars were fought, and young love sparked.

The woods are a magical place with untapped potential for the imagination. This is why I love trail running. This is also why I worry about trail runners.

I understand the draw to take your runs seriously. It’s a potentially dangerous scenario that you never even considered the damage you could incur as a child, and you still have responsibilities outside of the woods to keep in mind. From this necessary acknowledgment we must make, stem a plethora of adultizing to our passion. As rules and boundaries continue to grow trail running into a sport, we can become obsessed with pace, place, and a particular race. We also lose sight of the pure joy running in the woods can bring just from taking a moment to remember your running carefree in the woods.

For many, they can read the Bible and find comfort or perceived wisdom from passages such as 1 Corinthians 13:11, the “When I became a man, I set aside childish ways.”  

I’ve never much enjoyed this line of reasoning in philosophy (theological or secular). While there are things we must understand as we grow, responsibilities that can no longer be taken care of for us but must be done by ourselves, the notion is far too combative to something integral to our path to contentment. I can be both childish and responsible, and often find much more joy when doing so.

I have yet to meet an adult that when pressed, won’t admit that they look into the mirror expecting to see a youthful interlocutor staring back at them – the younger, more childish, version of themselves, still ready to spark vibrancy in their life if unleashed.

There are so many of our daily rituals that society refuses to let us act odd or randomly when completing. We have to be precise, we have to be sober-minded, and we have to look at children as infantile in their methods of fun. Even though, when they get done running through the woods, no watch, no crowds, no concern whatsoever for anything other than the experience of the moment, they have the smile we’re all chasing down with each run.

“I’m in my room making cardboard castles with shoestring rope.

Soup spoon drawbridge, a tinfoil moat.

I’m still dreaming after all these years.” Watsky – Cardboard Castles

The Parting Glass

It hurts, in so many ways. But it doesn’t change, no matter the willpower you deign to throw at it. Our bodies, our effort, our lives are on a direct path toward decay.

So, what do you do now? Do you fight the dying embers of reality? Do you acquiesce to the compulsive fear of the darkness beyond? Or, do you take a breath, accept the lack of power over fate, and carry on with a smile?

I’m not sure what you choose and, depending on the day, I’m not always certain which one I choose. I want it to always be the calm stoic who wins out, viewing my fate as one amongst many, an endless passage of life connected to its surroundings. But some days I feel like I should be special. Some days, I feel like I shouldn’t have to accept the downward trend of life into the absence of consciousness.

This ever-swaying pendulum is a constant in my training as well. The peaks and valleys glare at me from my Garmin and Strava accounts as I look back to find my progression flowing alongside my mental state. I’m sure it’s possible to separate the two, but for me, my running is a direct correlation to my outlook on life. When I first got into running cross country as a kid, it was to find my way onto a team in school. I hoped my participation among the other popular kids in sports would bring with it the ability to act as they did in the hallways and around our classmates.

It didn’t. Four letters from three sports and in academics at three different high schools offered nothing but trinkets to stare at from time to time and wonder what they were worth. There was no joy in my effort dispensed, only desire for something more, something unattainable – other people’s acceptance, as well as my own.

I was constantly in pursuit of finding my flaws. At that time, they were ever-present and it was a pervasive notion that if I broke myself down enough, eventually I would find a foundation worth building back anew from. If this sounds familiar to anyone reading it, then you probably know that you never reach that point. There’s always more of yourself to be broken down and ridiculed.

In life, and in running, my mental state didn’t begin to change for the better until I released the pressure cooker churning my emotions. There is a place for goals and desires in life and training. We need direction and purpose and these can be hard to focus on without the drive goal orientation offers. The times in which I can distinguish between emotions and running are my most productive because I can clearly state to myself my abilities and what my performance should accurately look like. In these moments I feel accomplished, and I feel like I can finally pursue the goals I’ve laid out.

But what is the final purpose of a goal? Is it truly just to reach a certain mileage? Is it just about shaving a couple of minutes off a marathon time? Or, is it about you, that face you see each day in the mirror, changing over time, but still desperate to find acceptance within yourself or from others, clinging on to an image of yourself long lost to time?

We don’t have much life left and a good goal based on bad reasoning can eat away at the pleasure we’re allotted before we drift away into the night. Break past the surface answer to your goals and find the foundation behind them. If it’s faulty, you’ll never be at peace with your progress. We all deserve peace.

One day we will be raising our parting glass, and saying our goodbyes. Take the time to find peace with yourself now, so you can say goodbye to your life with the reflection and hallowed remembrance it deserves.

But since it fell into my lot, that I should rise and you should not.

I’ll gently rise and softly call, good night and joy be to you all.

How to Spend Your Reality Check

There’s an emotional cliff awaiting every runner after a major event. The cheers of the fellow runners and the setting of race day atmosphere have dissipated into your memories, leaving you with yourself; the harshest critic of your abilities you’ve ever met.

Maybe you hit your goal, but did you feel as good as you told yourself you would? Did you miss your goal, and now you’re cursing your mistakes from miles 4-7 that crushed your energy at mile 29? Do you feel great about what happened, but look at that next goal with fear and hesitation, questioning if you really are that good of a runner?

Reality doesn’t let you savor memories for very long without reminding you that fear and self-doubt are of endless supply.

I don’t intend to suggest there’s a way to make those questions stop. Nor, do I think they should. We need to question our past, even if it was only hours or days prior. That’s when it’s freshest in our minds and hasn’t been tainted by years of mistaken memory, layered over by emotions and merged experiences.

What I believe we can do is honestly answer these questions. We just need to do so in a forward-thinking and positive manner. And I believe we accomplish that with two steps.

Assessment of the Facts:

Honestly write down what happened during your run.

Did you actually feel great when you told the people high-fiving you that? Did you eat exactly as you planned? Were you happy when you were out there enough to warrant putting yourself through this again?

No one needs to know these answers but you. And it’s a huge stumbling block to our progression when we lie to ourselves. Honesty with that weird-looking version of yourself in the mirror is key to improving. Take every ounce of information relevant to your progression and compile it in a kind and thoughtful note to yourself for when you begin your next training cycle. I’m stressing the kind part once again because a nastygram to yourself is pointless torture that we all need to stop.

When you begin your next training session after you’ve targeted a new goal, read through your race details to remember what you did and didn’t like. You may find yourself about to fall into the same habit for this goal, leading you to repeat the same frustrations that may lead you to a DNF, or just a very long and cumbersome push to the finish.

Re-Assessment of Our Emotions:

Our memories stick with us for as long as our minds are capable of holding onto them. This is just a process of our brain, normal to our species. Whether or not these memories are labeled good or bad, viewed with pleasure or pain, is a process of our thinking and construct of our view at the time. If you had a bad experience with your previous race, you may look at it in disgust or frustration.

Holding onto the anger from a previous race may fuel your passion for a while, but it’s a fast-burning wick that will burn out before the finish line. You may not be happy with the outcome of your effort at a previous race, but to look at the experience in a negative light will affect you. Be hungry for better. Challenge yourself to go farther, and cross that next finish line. But take those desires to look negatively at a previous race and burn them in a bonfire while you laugh with your friends about how you fell or missed a cutoff while staring at the stars and being grateful for the opportunity to get back at it.

In conclusion:

Don’t let your experience go to waste by ignoring important information that can fuel your future runs. And don’t let it fester and boil its way into your nightmares when you could let the pain ease, and begin to enjoy the moment for what it was.

Amor Fati – Love your fate.

It’s the only one you’re going to get.

Photo credits to Ruben Cosme


There’s a brief moment of terror you may find yourself in on the trails, where you’ve misstepped and your body loses balance and begins wavering. Your stomach may drop. Your mind may rush through the tragedy that could unfold. But most likely you’ll experience nothing more than a grin as you regain control and carry on.

Since I was a kid, I can’t remember a week in which I haven’t felt that trepidation and wobbling notion while interacting with the world around me. Reality rarely makes sense to me. I can see the constructs and building blocks that create the opaque and cooperative world before me, but I lack the inherent ability to interact with it appropriately. I have questions that appear laughable to those the answers come naturally to. I lack the awareness to understand proper social constructs without spending ample amounts of time observing others glide through them without a moment’s thought. I’m odd.

Medication has helped me adapt to the unruly discourse taking place within the padded walls of my mind and helps me calm the nerves that grow weary of trying to learn how to be a more ‘normal’ person. I don’t use the word as a pejorative, so please understand I say it in many ways as a compliment. I envy the competence of people to interact without constantly cycling through variable scenarios for hours to try and approach the actual event with the best possible words to use for the desired outcome – “Small black coffee, please.”.

Therapy has helped me confront the damaging thoughts that have rendered many of my years to time’s waste bin without the need for a footnote or explanation of some great occurrence. With it, I’ve managed to garner the courage to strive for dreams I kept locked away. With it, I’ve even become somewhat adept at expressing myself to people without the horrific terrors that plagued my thoughts.

I’ve accepted the fact that my brain does not, and most likely will never, work properly. And that’s ok. I suffer from depression, anxiety, and a couple of other issues that make life a little more complicated than I would like. This is me, though. I can accept it and handle the problems with the patience and understanding that help me move forward, or pretend I’m not broken and ignore the monsters festering beneath the surface. It’s been an uncomfortable journey to befriend the monsters, but after listening to them for years, I’ve grown quite fond of their plight and even use them to my advantage when possible. From these depths, I’ve found talents that I never thought I could tap.     

I even enjoy talking now. I also enjoy writing, as it was my primary means of communication to the void within my notebooks for two decades. With these two methods, I’ve found a voice and a personality that I subjugated and forced into hiding to avoid the hazardous land mines of social interactions that left me alone, save for the family that just accepted how weird I was.

Now, there are brief moments when at a race that I begin speaking to the crowd of runners before Rory and me, as they await whatever instructions or advice we are about to offer. My stomach drops as your eyes fall upon us. My mind begins to shout and scream within the confines of the neurons firing back and forth in hopes I’ll flee to safety. But ultimately, I grin and accept the moment for what it is. With Rory by my side, and Jenn standing within eyesight, I regain control and carry on.

I hope that if you deal with any similar issues, you’ve found your path to acceptance and progress through the pain.

Goon Dock Running

“It’s ok. Goonies make mistakes. Just don’t make anymore.”

You’re going to screw up during a run. At some point, you’re going to make a mistake and need to recalibrate, adjust, or bring yourself back from the brink of disaster. It’s ok.

Plans are amazing and I make quite a few of them – from how I’ll clean my house on a day off to how I’ll handle my gel intake during a long run, I’ve got a plan for that. But in nearly every scenario the plan will inevitably break down and need adjusting. It’s not so difficult when my dogs come charging in covered in mud and make me refocus from laundry to mopping the floors. It is difficult when I’m twenty miles deep and realize I’m dehydrated and the cramps are setting in as my body begins to revolt.

Mistakes happen. What do you do next?

First, take a moment to be frustrated with yourself. Emotions aren’t the enemy. It’s how you handle them and how much control you give them that can be the problem. Kick a pine cone, shout ‘fuck you’ at a squirrel nearby, or hurl that pine cone you just kicked at said squirrel because it probably deserves it anyway (squirrels are evil and I stand by this statement).

Now that the frustration has passed, plan you’re way out of the hole. If it is dehydration, go easy. Don’t down a bunch of water at once and think that it will magically correct the deficit. Sip on your water continuously while taking a couple of gels over the next hour. Slow down your pace to avoid overexertion that would make your body pump out more sweat and keep you from regaining balance. And if you happen upon an aid station during this time, take a load off and chat for a while to let your body do what it does best in the background without you getting in the way.

Mistakes will change the course of your plan and will almost inevitably affect the outcome you had been anticipating. But adaptation is necessary. Carrying on through mistakes is how we learn.

And know it’s ok to screw up, because why the hell shouldn’t it be.

I’m betting money you’re not a professional runner because the vast majority of us aren’t. You do not get paid to be in perfect shape or to spend hours grueling over your training plan to try to find the weak spots.

Goonies make mistakes. And if trail runners aren’t grown-up Goonies chasing down One-Eyed Willie’s treasure, then I don’t know what the hell we are. However you choose to describe running – sport, activity, mud stomping fun – we are still adults playing in the woods while the rest of the world stares at us like we’re the weird kids your parents made you play with (hands up if you’re that kid… Our parent’s made Rory play with me).

Whatever happens, whatever tries to drag you down and destroy your plans, you can make it through. Because Goonies might make mistakes, but Goonies never say die!